«Through pain I learned to forgive, I learned to let go, I learned to heal myself.»
Singer-songwriter Evripidis Sabatis of «Evripidis and His Tragedies» from Barcelona, who released his third album «Futile Games In Space And Time» in 2016, speaks about teenage dramas, queer love, his roots and his ambitions and explains what he likes and dislikes about Berlin.
Interview by Norbert Bayer
Norbert Bayer: Hello Evripidis! Are you ready?
Evripidis Sabatis: Yes, I am.
Where are you right now?
At home, in the district of Poble Nou in Barcelona. I have many plants, drawings and books around me. Outside the window there is a patio full of plants, some of them quite huge.
Are you home a lot or always on the run between different places?
I used to be on the run for years, never resting, but now I am well installed in Barcelona, finally at a place I can call home. So nowadays I like spending a lot of time indoors.
Which means that you’re more up to futile games in time now than in spaces?
I believe that right now I might be playing a game that is not futile, at least not as futile as other ones I have been engaged to… ’Cause at the end of the day we all going to perish, right?
My point of view in things remains the same anyway — everything is futile and every experience is necessary and valuable.
But nevertheless in the song «15 Again» from your new album «Futile Games In Space And Time» you refer to the dream of wanting to be a teenager again. Did you have a happy time as teenager?
As a teenager I had a mixed time: Sometimes I felt utterly miserable and alienated and ugly, sometimes it was pure fun. The song is not about wanting to be a teenager again, it is about feeling things in the intense, hormone-fueled way that teenagers do, with all the buzzing and the drama.
Do you think that works the same way for gay people? Or are you idealizing here? GLBTI-teenagers are still more suicidal than others, for example.
I don’t think I am idealising at all. All this intensity of the teenage feelings is quite often unbearable. The dramas are huge. I had a rough time because I was gay, and not because of bullying, I was lucky enough to get away with just a bit of it, but because of the sexual frustration and the feeling that the world doesn’t have a legitimate place for me. In the 90’s, being gay in Greek bore quite a stigma. Also, adolescence is a time of great insecurities. When I sing «You make me feel fifteen again» I am actually saying: «You make me feel everything so intense that it hurts, you make me feel insecure, you make me feel young, for better and for worse. But you also make me feel hopeful and dreamy and starry-eyed», because young people are like that. At least I was.
But there’s always a dose of pain which comes with it. Why do you think it’s healthy as you say in the title of your second album?
Pain is essential to our growth and to our path towards maturity. I learned to appreciate things more through pain. I learned to be more empathic with other people, I learned to forgive, I learned to let go, I learned to heal myself. I am still learning of course until the last breath. Without the pain we cannot appreciate pleasure, happiness, bliss.
Very well said. Are you a gambler and is love a game for you? How can love and romance become a win-win-situation?
I am not a gambler exactly, I am not a player neither, but I do take risks in love and I do have an adventourous vain. I really don’t have a clue how a romantic affair can be a win-win-situation. Guess the stars have to align in a certain way. Personally I need to be with someone who is a friend first of all, a person who stands on a similar side as me and with whom I share common codes when it comes to love and affection, sexual stimulation and cultural interests. Also I guess it needs a lot of courage, honesty, flexibility and sacrifices. I am ever learning.
You’re playing in the Yo!Sissy Festival — in which way does the LGBTI-Context matter to you and your music?
I am singing mostly about stuff that happens to me and my close environment. I am a gay man and most of my friends belong to to the LGBTI collective therefore you get the picture. I believe that we have to live our queerness openly, in anyway we can. Let’s say that in my songs love between people of the same sex is as normal, as exciting, as banal, as frustrating, as special, as painful, as valuable as any heterosexual affair and that I am not afraid to come across as a bit camp or tongue-in-cheeked or naive.
That’s true, hopefully your music helps to break down boundaries!
…or give the feeling that we all have to co-exist in peace and respect, and be able to create our own normality, one that can de different than the heteronormative cannon. It is the same as snogging with our partner in public, the same way a straight couple would do really, without making a big deal out of it, experiencing it as a normal thing. It is not an enormous political statement but it does carry a valuable message.
… especially and still in times like these where Europe keeps heading right-wing.
It’s almost ten years now that I came across your music through a music-blog and I’m happy that you still move on with your music, also without an official label — did it get easier or more difficult within the last decade to work in self-publishing mode?
I do have official labels, but they are small and they certainly do not finance my music, they just release it. So in a way I am a D.I.Y.-artist. It gets more difficult with every record, to be honest, concerts are badly paid and I had the fantastic idea to record more expensively each time. I had to make a polished, lush sounding, multi-instrumental indie pop record and that is how «Futile Games In Space And Time» sounds. My next records are going to be lo-fi affairs, my savings ran dry.
I’m sorry to hear that — I would like to see and hear you on stage with an orchestra!
An orchestra — now that would be awesome, but also wishful thinking.
Of course I like it also when you simply play the piano and sing along with it, the way you did it in several concerts before in Berlin. You lived in Berlin for a certain time also, is that right?
Not really, I have been staying for periods in Berlin, because I have a lot of friends there but I never officially moved there.
What did you find here in Berlin and nowhere else? What do you recommend?
I like how vibrant the city is, how it seems that there is a niche for everyone and how it maintains a certain underground feeling. There is all this legendary aura that surrounds the city… the roaring 20’s, Bowie’s trilogy, the wild years before the fall of the wall, romanticised versions of a city on the edge, always decadent, always fun, always dangerous. I guess a bit of all this still remains in certain pockets among the gentrification. The nightlife is a lot of fun. There are gorgeous men everywhere. Mind you, I am not sure I would like to live there though. I do not speak German to begin with. Also, I guess I am too mediterranean, I simply cannot deal with cold and grey weather. Add up that I am not a big fan of techno-music to be honest, and I despise the sportswear pseudo-macho fad among gay man. But I am sure I would find my space to be comfortable and feel like home if I stayed long enough. Maybe one day I will move there and spend the rest of my days playing the piano in dim-lit bars.
I wouldn’t really know what to recommend, most of the bars and the parties that I have frequented are well known, I am not aware of any super cool exclusive hangout. I really like the New Year in Berghain, but apart from that, I would only recommend visiting Berlin from late spring to early autumn and just spend as mush time outdoors as you can. One of my favourite things is to take the bike and just wander around, the parks and the canals are lovely — there are enough suprises everywhere!
That’s true, I remember the day I sat in the café and you — I recently knew your music back then — where just walking by!
Are some of your songs inspired by Berlin? Or maybe even dedicated to Berlin?
There are two songs where my friend Sarah P. sings, she lives in Berlin and she’s Greek, but otherwise I wouldn’t say that there is a song especially dedicated to Berlin, not on this record at least.
What a pity! Berliners love songs and albums from international stars dedicated to our city.
«Red is the sky above the harbour» from my first record was an attempt to bring memories of Weimar Berlin Cabaret. But it does not specify Berlin at any moment. It is more a mix of the movie Querelle and a kinky experience a friend of mine had in Piraeus, the harbour of Athens. I do have a song about Berlin and Berliners, but it is not recorded by «Evripidis And His Tragedies». It is a side project called «Evil» and the song is called «Play It Sam».
You use a lot of naval metaphores in your texts. So to which shores are you planing to head to in the future?
I am going to Anafi, Santorin and Serifs in Greece. Greek islands are a big part of who I am, my fondest memories are linked to them. They are a shelter and a place to get cleansed, hideaways far away from the stress of modern life.
Sounds great, I will look that islands up! And in a broader sense — where will your plans for the future take you to?
I found out the hard way that planning too much the future is rather futile. I lost my best friend last summer, he had so many plans and seemed to have everything sorted and right when he started making them happen he perished.
I’m sorry to hear that about your friend! You have my sympathy.
Thank you. Since then i just live for today. Needless to say I have a tin box where I put money for future recordings. I have started doing a whole LP in Greek, plus some songs in Spanish. Also we are planning to finish six songs with «EVIL».
That sounds very promising, I’m very curious, although I don’t understand Greek and the texts are a very important part of your music.
When I release the Greek record I will probably print the translation of the lyrics on the inner sleeve. I just needed to make a record in my mother tongue, I find it essential after my friend’s passing out, I don’t know exactly why, but it is an inner urge. There are certain things that you can only express adequately when using your mother tongue, no matter how fluent yo are in other tongues. Also I want to make a Greek record that will be very different from any Greek record I know.
Is there anything you wanted to say to our readers and which I forgot to ask?
What I would like your readers to know — I don’t have a clue. Probably I would like them to check me out at Yo!Sissy Festival, Spotify, Bandcamp etc. Because no matter how much I talk about my work, it falls short, I am quite lousy when I describe my music. I think the songs speak for themselves a lot better.
Don’t worry, you’re very good in expressing yourself. Thank you very much for the interview, good luck for the concerts and the record and all the best for you — have a nice holiday!
Thank you Norbert, see you in Berlin!
Evripidis Sabatis is singer-songwriter and lives in Barcelona. He released several albums and some additional EPs with his band «Evripidis and His Tragedies».
He plays and sings piano-based, highly melodic tunes where love, lust, and loss intertwine; summers are long and lazy; nights are haunting memories; childhood is naughty; memories are bittersweet; men are cruel; humor is black; and ghosts take the living for rides in cars.
In 2016 he released his third album «Futile Games In Times And Space». You can find his music on Bandcamp and follow him on Facebook and elsewhere.
Photos: Daniel Riera
© 2016 Norbert Bayer | All rights reserved.